New anthology of Irish working class voices seeks to challenge lack of diversity in literature

"There’s a problem in the publishing industry when it comes to class.” – Paul McVeigh and Kit De Waal take on literary establishment with new anthology from Unbound.

“There’s a problem in the publishing industry when it comes to class.” – Paul McVeigh and Kit De Waal take on literary establishment with new anthology from Unbound

A new book from award-winning publishers, Unbound, seeks to address the entrenched class biases within our creative industries by championing the voices of marginalised, working class Irish writers.

The 32: An anthology of Irish Working Class Voiceswill be a collection of essays and memoir, bringing together sixteen well-known writers from working class backgrounds with an equal number of new and emerging writers from all over the island of Ireland.

Edited by Paul McVeigh – author of acclaimed novel The Good Son – the book intends not only to support and promote the writing of working class authors, but to also challenge an industry that at times seems not to recognise the existence of working class people at all. 

“There’s a problem in the publishing industry when it comes to class,” McVeigh tells Nothing in the Rulebook. He contests that this is in part due to a severe lack of representation within books themselves – and cites Ngozi Adichie’s idea of ‘the single story’ as being typical of the way the industry approaches publishing working class writing. 

“It’s very much the case that these publishers seem to think, well, we’ve already published a working class story before, so we don’t need another one,” he explains. “We’ve already had Trainspotting. That’s your quota of working class writing used up I’m afraid.” 

“Huge barriers” to working in publishing industry

Yet the problems in the industry are entrenched by the fact that it’s increasingly difficult for people from working class backgrounds to even enter into the sector. 

“There are huge barriers within the industry to working class people as a whole,” McVeigh says. “Who can afford to do an internship at these publishing houses when they aren’t paying you any money?” 

“Something needs to shift”

A sister anthology to Kit De Waal’s Common People anthology (also published by Unbound), The 32 attempts to smash down some of these barriers working class writers face, while also introducing readers to new voices and stories. 

“This is about giving working class writers an opportunity and platform they wouldn’t otherwise have,” McVeigh explains. “You also have to remember that this is all happening in the context of collapsing payments for debut authors. Something absolutely needs to shift, which is why we’re offering all the writers who are published in The 32 a substantial payment for their stories.” 

The book is also about improving the variety of stories readers are given. As McVeigh notes on his Unbound crowdfunding page: 

“We read because we want to experience lives and emotions beyond our own, to learn, to see with others’ eyes – without new working class voices, without the vital reflection of real lives, or role models for working class readers and writers, literature will be poorer.”

Readers can support The 32 anthology by pledging for a variety of rewards offered by Unbound. 

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